Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alien nuts

The comet had been captured eons ago by the the sun's gravity, and has been orbiting the sun ever since. On one orbit it passed near the earth, and a few spores locked in the ice of the comet's tail are captured by earths gravity and start to orbit the new planet. Millions of years pass as the spores are ever pulled deeper into the earth's gravity well, and eventually they start on a slow but steady decent to the surface. The spores alight in a field of exposed raw iron ore in what will eventually be northern Minnesota, and following their programming they move into the crystalline matrix of the iron, and start to multiply. They are alien evil incarnate, with endless patience. Eventually the planet's biped inhabitants take their giant earth movers and excavate the iron ore. Powerful  machines crush the ore into powder, magnets separate the iron and roll it into small balls. The balls are sent to a foundry, and are melted into billets, with one of them still carrying the inorganic alien spores. The billet is sold to a manufacturer who makes stainless steel nuts. The spores are now embedded in thousand of stainless steel nuts, and their long wait is almost over. Destruction of all life on planet earth is their goal, and it is now within their reach.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Installer's inside voice

Happy Tryptophan day. This is a decidedly odd piece of fancy, even by my standards. Boat safely this holiday if your boat isn't in it's winter wrapper yet. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

A tale of two trim tabs

It's right, it's wrong, or it's gray. In this case it was wrong, and it was grayish on the wrong side of the fence, which meant it worked only for a while. Installing trim tabs are not difficult because things can only go where they go, in theory. This boat has a pocket built into the hull that the trim tab retracts into. If I was installing it, I would have attached the tab to the boat, and then bolt the fully retracted ram to the tab. You lift the whole assembly up, and use a pencil, or marking device of your choice to mark the three ram screw holes. Drill the holes, and then use the template to mark and drill the hole for the hydraulic tube. This is not hard to do at all, I've done it many time with notable success. So looking at the picture below it worked perfectly, no matter how the plant worker went about it. But something went awry at the factory when the other trim tab was installed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Failure to communicate

The urgency was palpable in the service writers voice on the phone. "Could you please go and fix this guy's problem". "What's wrong." I said. "Well he needs a software upgrade on his C-120, he has a cut radar cable, and the boat has to leave tomorrow." "Alright" I said looking at my watch, I will see what I can do". It's nearly 3:00 on Friday afternoon. I pack up my stuff and head to the marina. The boat is a larger walk a round, and the owner meets me with the cut cable in his hand. "What's up with this?" I think. I start to look around, and I climb up onto the deck and survey the hardtop. I'm no rocket scientist, but my keen eyes observe that the radar isn't there, and I start to have the dawning epiphany there is more to this than I was told.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chalk it up to.... well chalk I guess

The two greyhounds girls are heaved into the back of the land trawler, (spelled Kate's Tracker) and off we go to meet some friends at the Sarasota Chalk Festival. We were lucky that a client had an office near the festival we could park at, and this was a good thing because about 200,000 people attended the seven day event. It proves that if something is fun to do, and it's free, people will come in droves, and they did. We all find each other, and I ask if anyone sees a boat related picture, call me and tell me where it is. Because of the crowds, and the size of the event it was difficult to see all of it in one day. There were more 250 artists participating in the event, and they used a lot of pavement. 

I won't say the 3D pavement art art was the highlight of the festival, but it was certainly the big attention getter. It was stunning to see the drawings literally exploding out of, or into the pavement. The 3D street painting technique is a form of anamorphosis, or "Slant Art" developed by artist/architect Kurt Wenner. The Terracotta Legoman painting above is nearly completed, and it took four artists headed by Peter Westerink 5 1/2 days to complete. One of the most interesting things about this form of street art is that it can only be properly seen from one specific vantage point. By clicking here you can see a series of photographs showing the construction of the Legoman piece, and note how unrecognizable the image is if you look at it from the other side. There is a lot of cool mathematical plane projection going on here. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

KVH M1 101

Marinas and yacht clubs are slowly learning that providing some sort of dockside cable television service to their customers is getting increasingly more difficult, and complex. The switch to digital cable systems more than ever before, now requires a digital receiver box to be installed in a home, or boat for each television. But short of tornadoes, landslides, or sink holes in Florida, your house doesn't typically travel, your boat does. The equipment cable providers give you is based on a home installation scenario. You know the type, you can get behind your TV and plug and play all of the cables, in air conditioning, without sweating or bleeding. On a boat this is much different.

A local yacht club is discovering how painful this is becoming. Their Comcast system now requires digital tuner boxes for each television to receive the channels. That's not quite the truth, the first 24 channels of very basic cable is still available for now, but for most cable TV suppliers a box of some sort is required. So here is the catch, if you install your local vendors box in your boat, and you travel to another marina with another cable TV vendor, your box won't work with their system. This problem is going to get worse, and never better. I do have a suggestion for marinas. With a good quality digital on air antenna, and an amplifier system you could provide in most urban areas 20, to 30 or more digital high quality free local channels to your boaters. The capital cost is low, and you can get rid of those costly cable TV bills.

A good option for boaters that cruise, and who want broad channel options is a satellite marine TV system such as the KVH M1 seen below.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Look back up at me in an old spicy way

Hello boaters, look down at your panel, and then back up to mine, now back to your panel, now back to mine. Sadly your panel isn't mine, but if you used acrylics, instead of those other poor choices, your panels could look like mine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Five chart plotters installed in one day, a new world record

I know you're thinking this installer leads a glamorous life always attending store openings, conferences, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, and passing my Grey Poupon to the Bentley next to me. But in the real world most days are just spent grinding it out. Today I am upgrading a Garmin 5212, installing a couple of cable TV boxes, and finishing a KVH M1 satellite  system install (I'm writing a 101 piece on it). But every now and then I get something interesting, and different to do. This is the case with the systems you see mounted below. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Form ever follows function

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression, 
That form ever follows function. This is the law.

The term Modernism generally applies more to architectural, and industrial design, but for this discussion, we will apply it to boats. So let's behold the hammer below. Despite its somewhat battered appearance, to my eye it is a graceful, and beautifully designed object, completely devoid of any ornamentation, and whose design has been refined over the ages. This versatile tools pounds nails, the curved shape allow nails to be pulled and planks levered up. It's mass gives the head substantial impact force. It is used by almost all tradesmen for varying needs, and can also be used as an effective weapon. This is a well designed, elegant machine whose every facet serves some purpose, and it also provides some heft to the phrase, "When reason fails, force prevails".